Treatise on the People of Wa in the Chronicle of the Kingdom of Wei
The World's Earliest Written Text on Japan
Translated by Joshua A. Fogel, York University
2018, 408 pages
ISBN 978-1-937385-48-4 Paper $32.00
ISBN 978-1-937385-51-4 Cloth $55.00
The “Treatise on the People of Wa,” which appears in the Chronicle of the Kingdom of Wei, is the oldest written text that we have about that place now known as Japan. Just over 2,000 characters in length, it was to set the tone for subsequent writing on Japan for centuries. A work by Chinese who never visited Japan and based on evidence much older, it often describes events and customs now difficult to understand or properly place historically. It has produced thousands of books and articles in Japanese over the years, trying to decipher the text. Saeki Arikiyo takes a straightforward philological approach, analyzing the text character by character in comparison to countless of other early texts, inscriptional materials, and other media in an effort to explain the meaning of the text in its time—and to demonstrate that the text gives a fairly accurate picture of the ancestors of the Japanese people.